Angels and Demons – in Real Life
By Jim Kuiken
Everyone in Texas, pretty much everyone in the United States, and lots of folks all over the world are experiencing, watching or aware of what is going on in Texas this week (and probably Louisiana in the next few days).
It is a national disaster on a scale not seen since the founding of our country, and will continue to play out over the next few weeks, months, and even years. People across this nation (myself included) have family and/or friends living in the area who are affected by this tragedy.
The loss of life (with more to come), the devastation, misery and heartache are all very real, and deeply touch my soul, as well as most people of good will throughout the nation and the world.
Out of every tragedy or devastating event come stories of heroism (no, not “athletic prowess” or celebrity notoriety – actual heroism, where someone steps up to help and serve others at the risk of their own life and safety). This event is no different. All you have to do is watch any (responsible) news outlet, and you will see the stories.
People have come from all over the nation (and several other nations, like Mexico and Israel for example) to help. Many private citizens bringing supplies and help, their own boats, trucks, clothing, food, water, etc…with no compensation or other reason than to help others in need.
Churches, civic organizations, businesses and corporations, and many other organizations are stepping up to help. Agencies that are charged with the responsibility for assisting others (police, fire/ems, national guard, FEMA, etc.) are serving way beyond their lawful duty and normal capacity, and putting themselves at risk (some, like Houston Police Sergeant Steve Perez, will pay the ultimate price for their sacrifice), working non-stop long hours to do whatever it takes to save lives. I’ve talked about this before, in my article “What it Takes”.
These are the Angels. As described from the very mouth of many of those saved.
Unfortunately, in every bad situation where people are at risk and need help, there are $#!?heads. Some are just petty idiots, like those so focused on their own political agenda that they just have to tweet about shoes, or that Texans deserve what happened because of how they voted in an election, instead of about all the heroic efforts of those involved, what is being done to coordinate the rescue and recovery efforts, and ways others could step up and provide assistance. Disgusting fools.
However, some are just evil.
When the Cajun Navy, a volunteer organization of boat owners from Louisiana showed up, with 20+ boats to get out and start helping to rescue others – even though they know that the storm is headed towards their own homes – besides actually saving lives (like the elderly lady that was floating away, see the link above for the story), they also came under fire by armed looters. That’s right…disgusting dregs of our society began shooting at the boats full of people there to help…because they were interrupting their looting of the homes and businesses of people who were forced to leave all their worldly possessions behind and flee to save their lives.
Not only were these lowlife (I don’t want to call them animals – it would be a deep insult to animals to call these spawn that) going in and taking advantage of helpless people in their most vulnerable time, but they were actually shooting at other people who had dropped their own lives, packed up and come all the way over, spending their own time and money, and voluntarily putting their own lives and safety at risk just to help out those in need where they could.
And that’s not even the worst of it. Looting, and armed robbery (yes, actually pulling a weapon on someone who is fleeing with whatever of their most precious possessions that they could carry, and robbing them at gunpoint of those items and any money they had with them) has become so prevalent that Houston has increased the penalties for burglary. Before this, burglarizing a home would normally bring a penalty of two to twenty years in prison, but now brings five years to life.
Luckily, the vast majority of people (Texans, other Americans, and those from around the world) actually care about other people, and they step up to offer any help and whatever subsistence they can in another’s time of need.
I’m glad those who are evil will be sought out and punished to the fullest extent of the law. I’m also more than happy to give all the importance to those who spend their time in petty nastiness that they deserve – none. I step over them as I would filthy gum on the street.
But most of all, my faith in human kindness and decency is renewed by each terrible event that befalls us, and the caring and response that the majority of people feel and act upon – generously giving of themselves, and anything that they can bring to help and comfort those in need. I pray (and yes, I mean that literally) for those in need, and for those who step forward to help. Thank God there are people like you.
Angels – 99. Demons – 1.
Intruder On Deck!
By Jim Kuiken
So I’m in Marine Corps Boot Camp in San Diego, somewhere in March of 1973, going through Third Phase just a few weeks from graduation, when I flubbed a very simple question / exercise during our final Field First Aid test. I don’t remember what it was, but I believe it had to do with a gut wound or a compound fracture of the femur…but in any case, it was an exposed wound – and should have been pretty simple.
I was up for Meritorious Promotion to Private First Class
(E-2, to be effective a week before graduation), because of my outstanding performance, attitude, and Esprit de Corps…and I had screwed up a simple test question for no good reason… A GREAT way to get some attention from your Drill Instructor – just not positive attention.
There had been plenty of screw ups by pretty much every Recruit during Boot Camp (you can read about this one, and lots more of them in my upcoming book – The Making of a Warrior), but as we say about our rifles – “There are many like it, but this one is mine…”
The Senior Drill Instructor, who was not a large man, but who was a combat veteran (Force Reconnaissance) from Vietnam – and was terrifyingly perfect – swooped in on me, nose to nose with the brim of his “Smokie” (hat) touching my forehead, and said “What the #@*! was that Kuiken? I felt a quiver in my legs, and my heart jumped into overdrive.
Before I could open my mouth to answer, he stepped back and pointing to the floor said “Bends and Thrusts. Begin!”
Without a word or any hesitation, I immediately began a four-count exercise – with enthusiasm – by dropping down to a squat position with my hands on the ground in front of me “ONE”, kicking my legs back and landing in a good push-up position “TWO”, jumping my legs back up under me into a squat position – hands still on the ground “THREE”, and shooting back up to a standing position – hands on my hips “ONE”. That was one squat-thrust. He hadn’t said how many, so I just kept going. “ONE, TWO, THREE, TWO – ONE, TWO, THREE, THREE…)
Getting bored, he walked around the tables and stations, and watched the other recruits perform their tests until they were all done and dismissed, then he went into the Drill Instructor’s Hooch (an office at the end of the squad bay with a cot, small table and a couple of chairs), made a cup of coffee, and came back out to watch me. “ONE, TWO, THREE, FIFTY-SIX – ONE, TWO, THREE, FIFTY-SEVEN…”
Either I was starting to slow down, or he just got bored watching me do the same thing over and over, and he said “Mountain Climbers. Begin!”
Having just shot up to standing, I immediately dropped back into a full push-up position, and remaining down, I began that four-count exercise – with enthusiasm.
Hands remaining on the floor, I jumped my right leg forward until my foot was under my waist, knee under my chest while my left foot remained back in the push-up position…looking very much like a runner getting ready to start a race “ONE”. Then I jumped slightly up, keeping my hands on the floor, and switched feet in one move, my right one all the way back, left one under my waist with the knee under my chest “TWO”, repeated the move, switching feet…like climbing a mountain…“THREE”, and one more time “ONE”!
By this time I was huffing and puffing, and sweating profusely with the sweat dripping off of my chin and nose, forming a puddle there on the floor under my face. He turned and walked into the Drill Instructor’s hooch, and slammed the door – probably getting some more coffee.
About a minute later, I heard the front hatch (door) open, and looking out from under the folding table I was down behind while doing my mountain climbers, I saw shiny shoes…this was not one of my Drill Instructors, so I shot to my feet at the position of attention, and in a loud, clear voice, announced “SIR, SPY ON DECK, AYE AYE, SIR!”
It was a Lieutenant.
As the Drill Instructor shot out of his office, the Lieutenant asked me “Private, what were you doing down there?” My Senior Drill Instructor started to say something, but the Lieutenant held up a hand, and said “I’m not talking to you Sergeant. I’m asking this private.”
I knew something was wrong and the Drill Instructor was in trouble, but an officer had asked me a question, so I had to answer.
“Sir, the Private dropped his pen, looking for his pen, Sir.”
That got me a stern glance from the Lieutenant, and he stepped a bit closer and said “I’m going to ask you again Private. I saw what you were doing down there when I walked in, so don’t play games with me! What were you doing down there when I walked in?”
Now I was on notice – he had seen me and knew exactly what had been going on when he came in, and I had no choice but to answer him.
“Sir, the Private dropped his pen, looking for his pen, Sir!”
He said some very un-‘Officer and a Gentleman’ words, gave the Sergeant a dirty look, spun on his heel and walked out.
The Senior Drill Instructor stood there for a moment, watching him walk out, then he turned back to me, and looking me straight in the eyes, said “Did I tell you to stop?”
“SIR, NO SIR!” I dropped as quickly as I could and resumed my mountain climbers – with enthusiasm – as he turned, walked back into his hooch, picked his coffee cup back up and slammed the door behind him.
I knew that was his way of showing appreciation…
By Jim Kuiken
I’m so sick of this constant drum beating, I don’t even watch the news anymore. I don’t give a cr@p about what side anyone is on, and we’ve been over this ground before. I’m not even going to write a post this week…I’m just too tired of the constant and disgusting acrimony. Here are my thoughts on the whole thing – a review of my previous posts (too many on this subject already):
Can’t we all just get along?: Blind Ideology – a True Four-Letter Word
By Jim Kuiken - 4/6/2017
Reflections: What the #<!! is Going On?
By Jim Kuiken - 7/13/2016
Civility Lost?: Rats In A Cage
By Jim Kuiken - 2/3/2016
That’s Offensive!: Splinters and Factions and Groups, Oh My!
By Jim Kuiken - 12/9/2015
The First Amendment – Rights (or wrongs…): “Inalienable rights” Really?
By Jim Kuiken - 5/10/2015
I’ve written so many uplifting, happy, patriotic, informative and useful articles in the past, but the fact that this keeps popping up on such a regular (and actually, growing) basis is completely disheartening to me. I have no problem with people peacefully and lawfully expressing their opinions, whether I agree with them or not. As I’ve said, I fought, bled, and many of my friends died, to uphold that right.
Unlawful and violent actions (from any “side”) should be immediately punished to the full extent of the law, using the most serious charges possible based on the action.
Enough with placating, appeasing, and bowing to violence and extremism – from the left to the right, the top to the bottom, and anywhere in between. Period.
I think it’s time I hang out my Gone Fishing sign, and try to find some Peace – away from all these violent, unhinged idiots.
By Jim Kuiken
Freedom and I used to go for a walk every morning. Our walk took us about a block away to a greenbelt – a paved path leading out through the trees and quiet areas for about the first mile, then it picks back up on a tree-lined and shaded paved path that parallels a two-lane road, going up and down some good little dips and rises – and if we go the full route, is 3 miles…my old running route before age, old injuries and arthritis took that away.
Most days, we just did two miles, but occasionally we got froggy.
On one of our walks, almost exactly a year ago, I spotted something in the trees just off the path. I’m always alert to movement and sound, and Freedom is alert to smells, so between the two of us we spot a lot of critters out on our walks…chipmunks, squirrels, turtles, raccoons, foxes, deer, etc.
This time, it was something that really didn’t fit that caught my attention. Something white in among the trees. When we stopped and focused in, I finally realized that what I was looking at was a little white fawn. As I watched her (I liked to think of it as a her…), I slowly realized that right next to her was her brother (again, my projection), a totally normal fawn…and then, behind and just a few feet away, their mother. I hadn’t seen the mother or brother, but she had stood out and caught my attention. Freedom sat, and we stayed there in silence just looking at the magical creature and her family for several minutes, until they turned and slowly walked away into the trees. I still remember that moment, the peace and the beauty.
And life goes on.
Eventually, the slow, insidious creep of dis-engagement began re-inserting itself into my life, the walks tapered off and then stopped, my writing slowed down, and I got caught up in administrative issues, trying to respond to everyone, the meetings and appearances, etc., and without even knowing it, began to backslide towards where I was when I first met Freedom.
Don’t get me wrong, I was still orders of magnitude better than before, and in no real danger of shutting down again, but I had definitely been dis-engaging – and some of the frustration, anger and other issues were bubbling back towards the surface.
So yesterday, after finishing a particularly long, arduous few weeks of concentrated administrative tasks, I sent off the final document and decided I needed to get out, have a burger and relax. Afterwards I felt like taking my time and having a cup of coffee, so I drove over – didn’t find any parking – and ended up parking across the street.
As Freedom and I crossed the street – with the light and crossing signal – we were about half-way across when a car came speeding toward the light, and thinking that he wasn’t going to stop, I yanked Freedom back, pulling him completely airborne by the collar around his neck, as he spun around mid-air and yelped. The car slowed abruptly, crossing the big white line he was supposed to stop behind, pulling into the crosswalk and stopping right at the farthest white line, completely blocking the crosswalk. Unfortunately, stopping over the line (and even into the crosswalk) is not all that unusual here in Virginia and DC…but he didn’t slow until the last minute, making me think he was going to hit Freedom.
The young (late 20’s / early 30’s) male driver just looked at me, and although there was plenty of room behind him to back out of the crosswalk, just gave me a dismissive look as he went back to his phone conversation.
What happened to common courtesy, respect, basic awareness of anyone but self? Is civility completely lost?
That cold beast inside me that I describe in The Making of a Warrior popped his dark head out, and the anger flashed over.
What happened next (I won’t even try to put it in a flattering light…it wasn’t pretty), definitely got his attention and left him with no doubt about what I thought of his actions. He sat there in his fancy little car, stunned, as we walked on…until we got far enough away that he felt safe.
As we were approaching the far side of the road, he popped up out of the car and started yelling, saying what he’d do to me. A 20-30 something old “man” to a 60+ year old man with a fully vested and identified Service Dog…
Not one to turn my back to a threat, I spun around and started back towards him, telling him to kiss my #%&! #$$. As I closed on him, he jumped back in his car and locked all the doors – so with the threat gone, I turned and went back towards the coffee shop. The light changed and he sped off, as we went in and got the coffee, sat down, and tried to stuff that dark animal back into his cubby-hole.
This morning when I got up I was still feeling the residual anger, and saw Freedom lying there in his bed, looking up at me with his big brown eyes. For no reason I got dressed, got his leash, and we headed out – back on that trail through the woods that we hadn’t seen in months.
We didn’t even make it a half mile when guess who was standing there, off the side of the trail, looking at us. That white (now yearling) young deer, her brother and mother. We stopped and all looked at each other for several minutes, and I could just feel the blood pressure dropping, the peace returning to my soul, and I reached down to put my hand on Freedom’s head. Re-engaging, letting the press of the urgent drift away, and focusing back on the important.
I’m so very grateful for the reminder…message received loud and clear!